By Kelly Tyko
Southeastern Grocers, parent company of Bi-Lo, Winn-Dixie and Harveys supermarkets, is reversing course and says it will require that shoppers wear masks in its hundreds of stores throughout the Southern states.
The new requirement will begin July 27 and follows moves by other retailers to require face coverings, including Walmart, Sam’s Club, CVS and Walgreens, whose new mandates went into effect nationwide Monday.
The announcement comes a day after the company confirmed to USA Today that stores weren’t requiring face coverings during the pandemic to avoid “undue friction” between customers and staffers. On Monday, the company said its position evolved after listening to customer feedback.
“This unprecedented period requires a willingness to be adaptable and flexible to ever-changing circumstances, and we will continue to adjust as needed over time,” Joe Caldwell, director of corporate communications at Southeastern Grocers, said in a statement.
Caldwell said the majority of stores are already under local or state mandates.
“Given the continued rise of positive COVID cases in our communities across the Southeast, beginning Monday, July 27, we will be requiring masks to be worn by customers to help reduce the spread of the disease,” Caldwell said. “Our communities count on us, and we are counting on our customers to show kindness as we go through these challenging times together.”
Some shoppers have complained that wearing a mask infringes on their rights.
Caldwell said the company believes “enforcement should be placed upon our state and federally elected officials.”
“We will continue to work with our peers in the retail industry to advocate for this sensible mandate to be passed into law to remove the burden from employers and their heroic frontline associates,” he said.
A growing number of retailers are requiring face coverings for patrons and workers to curb the spread of the virus.
USA Today report Dalvin Brown contributed to this report. Follow USA Today reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko